Bath 11 Northampton Saints 13: Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

JJ Hanrahan was the standout fly-half at The Rec (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

JJ Hanrahan was the standout fly-half at The Rec (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

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Watching a downbeat Mike Ford in the box next to The Rec’s press benches, you almost felt for him.

Once again, he had seen his side come agonisngly close to beating Northampton, only to fall at the final hurdle.

Quite simply, Saints are to Bath what kryptonite is to Superman.

As cries of ‘come on you Saints’ rang out and Ford watched on in despair, it must have felt like groundhog day for those of a Bath persuasion.

They have now failed to beat Jim Mallinder’s men in the past nine Premiership meetings between the sides, stretching back to February 2011.

And there was also a gut-wrenching Amlin Challenge Cup final defeat to Saints in 2014 to rub salt in the wound.

But this is not to discredit what Ford has done and what Bath offer.

They are a real threat with ball in hand, as shown by Semesa Rokoduguni’s stunning step and finish for the home side’s try.

And they didn’t get to the Premiership final last season for no reason.

But Saints, as they have done to many teams over the years, refused to give the side in blue and white many chances to play to their own strengths.

Kahn Fotuali'i was in action for Saints

Kahn Fotuali'i was in action for Saints

Instead, Mallinder’s men play to their own.

And since a sluggish start to the season, which felt slightly muddled and confused, they have got back to doing what they do best: bullying teams up front.

Ford felt referee Craig Maxwell-Keys was ‘guessing at scrum time’, but can the same also be said for Romain Poite, Pascal Gauzere and Greg Garner?

Those were the men in the middle for Saints’ three consecutive wins leading up to the battle at Bath.

Ben Foden showed some good attacking glimpses

Ben Foden showed some good attacking glimpses

And each of those found heavily in Saints’ favour at scrum time, so much so that two of them saw fit to sin bin opposition props.

Gauzere gave Ryan Grant his marching orders at Glasgow, while Garner binned Yann Thomas in the win against Gloucester. And he might have carded others, too.

Saints are not chancing their arm up front.

Under Dorian West’s shrewd tuition, they understand the laws and their work pays dividends.

They have now forced three prop sin-binnings in as many weeks, which is a quite remarkable achievement.

And as difficult as it was for Ford to take, Saints always seem to steal a march on Bath when it comes to the forwards.

Luther Burrell was up against England team-mate Jonathan Joseph

Luther Burrell was up against England team-mate Jonathan Joseph

In fact, they’ve been doing it for years now, as their record shows.

What they have also done in recent wins against the west country side is stopped the attacking threats in the back-line.

For one reason or another, Bath’s talismen are less effective when faced with a Northampton defence.

George Ford, for one, continually fails against Saints.

There is no doubting the talent of the England fly-half, but he has yet to dominate against Mallinder’s men.

Instead, he is often outclassed by whichever man Northampton choose at No.10.

Stephen Myler outshone him in the Amlin Challenge Cup final, kicking his points as Ford floundered during the second half.

And at The Rec, JJ Hanrahan was the best fly-half on show, kicking superbly and showing better composure with ball in hand.

Such was the pressure Saints applied to Ford, that he threw the ball straight into the hands of the waiting Luther Burrell, who scored the away side’s only try.

It proved pivotal as although Bath eventually went in front, Saints had enough on the board to ensure a superbly-struck Hanrahan penalty could save the day.

It earned another vital win in the pursuit of a top-four place and maintained that incredible unbeaten record against Bath.

A job once again well done, but again a case of back to the drawing board for the Fords and the Bath forwards.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Will be disappointed not to have stopped Rokoduguni on his way to the line, but was a threat going forward... 6

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Not the best of days for the wing, who was man of the match in the February win at The Rec. He defended well, but couldn’t put it together in attack, as was the case for others... 5

GEORGE PISI

Was eventually replaced by Myler, but had worked hard up to that point, getting through some good defensive work... 6

LUTHER BURRELL

Made some big hits and showed good instinct to pounce on Ford’s pass. He did the same at Wasps in pre-season and it is no fluke... 7

GEORGE NORTH

Still has not scored for Saints this season, with five games having come and gone, but he can’t be accused of not looking for work... 6

JJ HANRAHAN - CHRON STAR MAN

A fine display from the fly-half, who eventually moved to inside centre. Controlled the game well and kicked everything he had to on a day when that proved so vital... 8

KAHN FOTUALI’I

Still waiting to show his magic this season, but he always tries to create something and is getting sharper... 6

ETHAN WALLER

Huge shift from the loosehead, who replaced his brother and proceeded to excel in the scrum as well as making a big carry or two. Shoved Henry Thomas into the sin bin... 8

MIKE HAYWOOD

Once again outclassed Rob Webber, showing that he must be considered for England. He is such a vital asset for Saints... 8

KIERAN BROOKES

It has been said before and it must be said again - what a signing this man is for Saints. Ruined another loosehead’s afternoon as he took Nick Auterac to task... 8

MICHAEL PATERSON

Has grown into his role in Saints’ second row and he and Day now look a really effective pairing... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

Such a vital presence in a youthful Saints pack, this man steers the troops around the field while also putting in a big personal performance... 7

JAMIE GIBSON

Like Brookes, he has been a superb signing. Fantastic, indefatigable display once again here as he helped Saints defend stoutly during the second half... 8

TEIMANA HARRISON

Came in for his first start of the season and showed why he is such a contender for a regular first-15 role, getting stuck into Bath in a superb display... 8

SAM DICKINSON

Another big showing from the big man. He is revelling in playing at No.8 on a regular basis and his form continues to get better and better... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

ALEX WALLER (for E Waller 50)

Came on to make his 100th consecutive Premiership appearance, which is a league record and a staggering one at that, especially for a prop. Made some big hits here... 7

VICTOR MATFIELD (for Day 59)

His experience is great for Saints to have late on in games and he helped them push their way to victory... 6

STEPHEN MYLER (for G Pisi 59)

An assured presence to introduce and he did everything Saints needed him to as they battled their way over the line... 6

Semesa Rokoduguni scored a fine try for Bath

Semesa Rokoduguni scored a fine try for Bath